The award for the ethnicity in the most supporting role goes to…

It’s amazing to see how far Asian-American actors and actresses started out from, I remember reading a short play “Yankee Dawg Die”, and how it clearly expressed the concerns and the dynamic of how hollywood viewed Asian-American male actors. Between these two male actors there was this controversy of what course of action should be taken, whether they should play these roles and perpetuate the views society had of them already or to not take them at all. As a striving actor trying to make to make a living there weren’t too many options for them to be able to succeed. It was amazing to me how even in our current time period that these same issues that were occurred back then were still prevalent today.

In Straitjacket Sexualities, Shimizu discusses how Asian-American’s sexuality and gender are affected by courses media takes. I remember plunders of movies where Asian-Americans are always casted off as supporting roles and it has always put me in awe. Aren’t Asian-American actors just as good as any other actors? Why are they casted into roles that are suited for them based on the way they are look? Who is the person to has the decision on what they are perceived as? These are the questions that were running through my mind, because having an interest in cinematography the director decides the direction in which the film is taken in and what the movie clearly depicts. Who says that the director has the utmost knowledge of a culture that the movie is portraying? The movie is told through the perspective of the director and as such that is how audiences will view cultures and people. The role of media is a type of double edged sword, it can circulate quick opinions and develop new attitudes, but whether they are positive or negative is up in the air.

It is interesting because these stereotypes are made so apparent within youtube space and that is the hot topics Asian-American youtubers use as content for their channels. In the earlier years of youtube there would be many vlogs ranting about stereotypes Asians had to face that was perpetuated by the media. As time has progressed there has been a sway away from that and there has been a strong pillar of Asian Americans focusing their own content that doesn’t revolve around stereotypes we have to face. I’m hopeful to see that there are many Asian-Americans that are breaking out and are given opportunities for bigger roles.


Guaranteed to make you thirsty

A blog post for Week 3, of AS AM 1118 at UCSB by Erika Martinez

I want to bring this Buzzfeed photo stream as the reasoning for my title click here.

I am going to break down this article and bring up the importance of media literacy in a time where Buzzfeed has taken the internet by storm, and now serves as the new “CNN” for the common Facebook user. Let’s start with the title. This photo stream shows how these men are being displayed as exotic figures, as the title is “21 gorgeous Asian men” and not just “21 gorgeous men” thus it is catering to a specific audience. Next if you click on the author, you will see that he is a Buzzfeed hired reporter that produces many other pieces such as “Which Disney Ginger are you?” and “Which foreign actor is your soulmate?” Not to be judgmental of his other work, but I think it is important to look at these pieces as evidence that this author is also viewing these Asian men as objects of desire, as many of the audience comments on the article prove that the thirst (need/desire) for these men is real.

While it is fun to view these pictures of half-naked men, I do think it is important to take a step back every now and then and utilize ones media literacy in order to really break down what is in front of us. This takes me back to the film we watched in class “Forbidden City U.S.A.” This film was a documentary that gave these Asian American performers a chance to tell their stories in a way that they were not able to in the days when they were performing. It was really inspiring to watch the performers who battled the traditional Asian stereotypes as they tried to make it in an industry that was not always welcoming to them.

I enjoy seeing this, as I think it also demonstrates the struggle of dealing with parents who do not share the same world-view as their offspring. I saw myself in these performers, because I too face the identity struggle of feeling that I am “not from here or from there.” Its a borderland (la frontera) as Gloria Anzaldua teaches the formation of an identity within first-generation American people with parents from another nationality. Therefore, I am inspired by the stories of these dancers and singers who followed their dreams and broke barriers. They served as role models to younger generations who would grow up seeing these Asian-American performers on screen. Serving as a new norm.

#3: Challenging Emasculation

The emasculation of Asian and Asian American men is a popular topic of interest within discourses on race and sexuality. The historical context and anecdotes of API emasculation, without fail, clearly suggest a racist and misogynistic hierarchy that defines men of color as the Other in direct contrast to white men who perform white hegemonic masculinity. In this hierarchy, API men are stripped of their masculinity, while black men at the opposite end of the spectrum are portrayed as hypermasculine. When racist ideas like these are reproduced in pop culture and media, these ideas are internalized and affect the livelihoods of those affected.

Today, these ideas continue to influence the portrayals of Asian and Asian American men in literature and media, and can be found in characters like Leslie Chow of The Hangover franchise, Henry Higgs in Selfie, and Dr. George Huang in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In recognizing that this phenomenon is harmful and racist towards API men, communities have begun to try and change and essentially defy the stereotype.

Recently, an article published by Mic titled “16 Stunning Photos That Shatter Society’s Stereotypes About Asian Men” set to do just that. At face value, showing examples that negate the stereotype is an important act of resistance, and it certainly is a safe way to engage a wider audience. However, I remain skeptical, for two main reasons:

  1. The article features mostly men who grew up in East Asia, and not in the United States.
    • “Asian American” is an umbrella term that describes people that come from an entire continent. Pacific Islanders also often end up being categorized under this umbrella term. “Asian American” in reality is incredibly diverse and heterogeneous, but in perception is homogenized by the overrepresentation of East Asians and East Asian Americans. This article reproduces such homogenization.
    • By relying on men who are NOT Asian American, the article helps to propagate Americans of Asian descent as perpetually foreign and erases the different sociohistorical contexts of marginalization for Asians in Asia and for Asians in the United States.
  2. The men featured in the article still conform to white hegemonic masculinity, rather than challenging it.
    • This is probably best exemplified by the fact that the hapas who made it on the list are very white-passing. And all of the men on this list possess generally accepted traits of white, Anglo-American beauty standards including defined cheekbones, high-rise noses, and full lips. In this sense, this list is not wholly challenging American beauty standards, but rather trying to assimilate men of color (specifically API men) into them.

Having minority representation is important. It’s so important to see our faces in the public sphere. As a consumer of pop culture, I’ve certainly felt more inspired and more excited because I saw a face that looked like me on TV. But it’s not enough. The article challenges current representations of API men in pop culture and media, but it is not trying to dismantle the current hierarchy in place, and that’s the issue I have with racial projects like this, which are helpful to a certain degree but not quite good enough. In the future, I’d like to see diverse masculinities instead of adherence to only one. I’d also like to see associations of masculinity and femininity deconstructed and a celebration of a non-binary gender expression. While it is still crucial to raise consciousness and address these issues to our communities, I believe that we cannot simply stop at representation.

Week 3 – Margaret

Asians can be objects of desire. We had a screening of Arthur Dong’s documentary Forbidden City, U.S.A. Forbidden City was the first Chinese nightclub in San Francisco. It opened in December 1938, and was located about two blocks outside of Chinatown. The documentary illustrates how Asians were objects of desire. In particular, Chinese girls were considered different, exotic, mythical beings. Many questioned whether Chinese girls were sexually active, or if sex was different for them. Asians, in general, were perceived as wholly different from “white” or “black” people.

The Asian Americans interviewed in the documentary briefly discussed the topic of race and racial segregation between white and black people. Racial segregation was more prominent in the south, where public goods and services (restrooms, buses, etc.) were labeled either “white” or “black.” For instance, Toy Yat Mar, nicknamed the “Chinese Sophie Tucker,” traveled to southern states for a tour. She discussed how the bus was strictly segregated, with white people sitting at the front of the bus, and black people sitting at the back of the bus. Since she was neither white nor black, she sat in the middle of the bus. Fortunately (or unfortunately), no one else joined her. A possible reason may be because she was Asian, so neither white nor black people wanted to associate with her. Regardless of the reason, Asians were a different race, separate from white and black. Hence, this raises the issue of what Asians are – if Asians are not white or black, then what are they? How are Asians categorized? How should Asians be categorized?


Celine Shimizu’s Straitjacket Sexualities (introduction and chapter 1) discusses Asian masculinity and the lack thereof. Bruce Lee represented, and to an extent, still represents an ideal manhood. He redefined sexuality and masculinity: Lee possessed a macho-ness unlike most other Asian men; he also had “an unbridled libido,” as shown through many of his films. Lee’s martial arts skills also contributed to his masculinity. Overall, Lee illustrated masculinity and femininity, macho and feminism, and strength and vulnerability (80).

However, Asian men in pop culture today are often emasculated. Asian men are ridiculed and stereotyped, and deemed unworthy of sexuality and masculinity. This is mainly a result of “a definition of sexuality that centers sexual domination and prowess by men in the penis/phallus conflation” (80). Asian men, as shown in media, are usually more timid and shy, the person behind the scenes, the nice guy who cannot get the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, media continues to portray Asian men as lacking sexuality and masculinity, even though these stereotypes are far from the truth.


Some Thoughts on Forbidden City, USA

Power relations and social hierarchies are embedded in the politics of representation. Like Stuart Hall argues, representation helps us create a map to understand our position in the world and interpret the world through constructing meanings. Representation can be used to normalize social hierarchies so that the privileged can continue to enjoy their privileges while the disadvantaged remained so. It can be a powerful tool, too, to disrupt the existing structure of hierarchies and make room for new meanings, interpretations, and ways of being.

Forbidden City, USA is an example of the latter. Filmed by Arthur Dong, the documentary captures the glory history of the world-famous San Francisco nightclub The Forbidden City in the 1930s-40s. The film interviews Asian American dancers and singers who performed at The Forbidden City and showcases clips and photos of their performances. By giving voices to Asian American dancers and centering their stories, the film helps create a sense of pride of being an entertainer at the nightclub. This sense of pride is precious — as the dancers and singers said, they often encountered rejections from their friends, families and communities because working in the entertainment industry was deemed as “immoral” “insane” and all in all unconventional. Jadin Wong described in the documentary that she ran away twice so that she could dance! In essence, this film shows a different side of Asian femininity that counters the dominant stereotypical docile, servile, and eager to serve Asian wife. Instead, the film shows the female dancers and singers as sexy, autonomic, forward-thinking, outgoing, and fun. The agency of entertainers at the Forbidden City is also highlighted when they shared their struggles to become a dancer or singer despite stigmas and rejections within the community and the odds of being Asian in the white-dominant Hollywood/entertainment industry.




While the film is celebrating the pride and glory of being an entertainer, I find some images of female dancers and singers quite disturbing and problematic. According to the film, the success of Forbidden City largely depended on its objectification and exoticization of Asian female bodies. Like the owner Charlie Low said, people came to the nightclub because they wanted the novelty of Asian (American) dancers and performances. Like the pictures above, female dancers wore revealing clothes to show off their bodies and mainly legs, which was a quite a titillating thing to do in the 1940s. Even though its name is Forbidden City, the nightclub actually featured many American, Hollywood type of performances, such as tap dance, ballroom dances, burlesque dances, jazz music, and etc. Many songs performed were English songs. Even when they performed so-called “authentic” Chinese dances, their performances were based on the Western stereotypes or ideas of what chinese performances were like or should look like. In this case, I would argue, although Forbidden City did challenge the binary between the West and the East by fusing both, it did so by assimilating the East to the West, instead of fundamentally challenging the unequal power relations between the West and the East. It did not celebrate Asianess by reclaiming Asianess but by making Asianess similar to whiteness.

By Angel (Ruiqi) Ye

Week 3

Shimizu’s book referenced some of the more controversial examples of emasculated Asian American men in American pop culture. She cross-analyzes between this stereotypical purview of Asian men with her previous book in the Introduction that dealt with the Hypersexuality of Asian American women and how in both instances Asian Americans fail to fulfill a more “normative sexuality.”

I believe that this is a highly important piece that much like how historically white lawmakers and politicians opposed and banned Asian men from interracial marriages, the same occurs in the media today. Asian men are the bane of existence. The butt of the jokes. Arguably, there have been some instances where this is not the case like the recent Maze Runner movie. However, as this was taken from a highly popular book who had featured the lone (read: lone) Asian man who is portrayed as the “smart” one, this is more of an anomaly that he’s actually portrayed as the cool character.

Another popular reference that was discussed in class was the movie, Big Hero 6. Now much as I did agree with the popular opinion that it was cute – it was also whitewashed from its original comic. Granted, the original had its problems and they did, for once, tried to still have it seem to portray Asian Americans, but the fact remains that it lost a lot “To make the comic palatable to the American viewer.”

You can read more about it here:

Despite these “cool” options the fact remains that there are little opportunities for Asian American men to be portrayed as anything other than an emasculated man except in four major exceptions in my opinion. Also, all three examples while they may not be emasculated they are at the very least never given a chance to be anything more than asexual…

1) Much like the Bruce Lee example Shimizu outlines, they are in some way martial arts related, in which case (ooh so foreign).

2) They are the ENEMY that needs to be eradicated and are just EVIL. Olympus has Fallen is a good example of how quickly movie watchers are to forget that at least this story is fiction.

Racist twitter posts here:

3) They’re a monk. (I actually can’t really recall a movie or anything really recent, but there was a CSI episode way back that I remembered watching that featured Buddhist monks. So yeah…)

4) Like the documentary we watched in class, Forbidden City, USA, Asian American take it upon themselves to make the roles that are not provided elsewhere. Notable examples – Wong Fu Productions, Jubilee Project, etc.

Shimizu also recounts though that the solution to this problem should be “beyond just the correction of stereotypes or the attempt to gain equal access to patriarchy.” Is there a straightforward answer on fixing how the media portrays Asian Americans? Probably not. However, we as consumers, should still try.

Week 3 Blog

After reading parts of Straitjacket Sexualities by Celine Shimizu, I realized that Asian American men had been struggling with misinterpretations of their sexual identity by the media. Asian American men were being portrayed lacking masculinity and typical macho traits. Consequently, this stereotype bound, or “straitjacketed”, most Asian men to accept their role in society. I have to admit that I have noticed that Asian men are usually more depicted as timid, peaceful pacifists in movies and media. One exception who comes to mind and was discussed in the book was Bruce Lee. His legend still lives on and even now his accomplishments are considered remarkable. I’ve seen videos of Bruce Lee doing push ups with his fingers and knocking a man back with just a thrust of his palm. Although his physical feats are praiseworthy, I believe his boldness in venturing away from the emasculate stereotypes of Asian men made Bruce Lee a hero.

This week in class we watched the documentary “Forbidden City, U.S.A.” by Arthur Dong. Before the film started, we were asked to keep some questions in mind during the film such as who is telling the story? Who are the intended audience? Who paid for the film? These questions help us understand what the meaning and message the documentary is trying to get across.

The retired dancers from the Forbidden City night club revealed the struggles they endured as Asian Americans trying to enter the entertainment business during the 1930’s. Since they were raised in completely Caucasian neighborhoods and schools, some of the dancers faced name-calling and sometimes engaged in fights. As they grew older and attempted to become entertainers, they faced the challenge of finding a club to hire them over a Caucasian counterpart. Caucasians were given the parts first so for Asian Americans they would have to be much better dancers or singers in order to get the part. I personally found it amazing and inspiring that these men and women were able to prove themselves and overcome the barriers established during that time. They accomplished what may have seemed unusual and inappropriate for their time and since then we have followed their footsteps in breaking boundaries and filling new roles.